So you made it through 9 long months of pregnancy, the wild ride that is labour went fine (apart from, you know, the normal, crazy shit that happens) and you have your wee one in your arms, pink and breathing. And then it hits you: compared to what lies ahead, you had nothing to worry about when your baby was nestled safely in your womb. The easy bit is done. Now comes (gulp) parenting, and with it bigger, better, crazier Mummy Worry. Here's just a few of the things you will worry about in the first 6 months:
- Feeding: Is my baby getting enough? Too much? Is my supply drying up? Why is one boob massive? There are a billion questions that run through your mind about feeding. Even if your baby feeds perfectly, like one of those ones in the DVDs, you will never feel as confident as the smiling mum on the pamphlet. What does happen, however, is you feel a smidge more confident every day, and eventually get to the point where, although you probably still think it, you have worked out what is of genuine concern and what is down to Mummy Worry (different from Feel-it-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach Worry, of course. That one you should listen to). And don't think that you're a "bad mum" if you don't find every feed a transcending act of pure love: there will be multiple times when it's a pain in the bum, especially once you little squish starts looking around and finding everything other than your boob or the bottle super interesting.
- Poo and wee: Again, you get better with this, although every time it changes ("What the heck is that??"), Mummy Worry kicks in again. I'd like to take a moment to thank the good people of the Patent Helpline(1300 364 300) for talking me through poo on more than one occasion. Being a GI nurse, adult poo I understand, but baby poo is a total mystery to me. As for nappy changing: there is no shame in calling for reinforcements in the face of a poonami if someone else is home. If you're home alone, you're on your own. Good luck keeping the tiny fingers out of it whilst you clean up.
- Sleep: Ahhhhhh sleep: the endless battle in our house. The more tired they get, the harder it is to get them to sleep. Initially, bubs falls asleep on you more often than not. It's beautiful, serene, absolutely the loveliest thing in the world. And then they start to grow up a little, start looking around, taking an interest in more than just your boob... And then it's on for young and old. As someone who has sought advice from midwives and friends, and has tried all of the "right things", I am now painfully aware that there is no right. I'd love for Jnr to nap in his cot every day and sleep in it all night, but battling with him for an hour and a half, only to get a 30 min nap out of it, is not worth it. So keep using the pram, chair, car rides, cot, your bed, the boob/bottle, the magic Sleep Dance - whatever - and nuts to the advice. Our biggest asset is his bouncer. He's growing out of it, so last week I bought a bigger one online. If he grows out of that and needs a bigger one, well screw it, I'll find one. Sleep = sanity.
- Your sleep: If I hear one more "sleep when he sleeps" chant, I'll die. If I sleep when he sleeps, I wont eat meals or see my husband. I don't run around like a crazy woman when he's napping, but I get a few things done, then sit down and have a rest and a coffee (well, chocolate. The coffee just makes me feel better about eating chocolate at 10am). Actually, that's not true: coffee first, then jobs, since I never know how long I've got before I hear "eeeeaaaabllllaaaaaaargh" (that's his yawn-cry-stretchy he thing he does on waking) and have to drop everything.
- Your sanity: Trying to use toy keys to start the car; sunnies in the fridge; kettle in the coffee cupboard... Just a few of my greatest hits to date. As long as you don't leave your baby on the roof of your car, don't stress: these little stories are endearing and provide endless amusement for friends and family.
- Your relationship: Just kidding. Neither of you have time to worry about this. You can restart date night when your baby turns one. Maybe...
- Playtime: Of course you want the best start for your baby. Genius status might be a reach (not in our case *cough*) but you want him to be equipped with the knowledge every child needs: walking, talking, counting, reading, writing, basic accounting skills... So, are your silly songs and bouts of rolling around on the floor enough? Pfft. Sure! The other stuff can come from trained professionals at child care or kindy, right?
- Measuring up: Stop comparing yourself to other parents right now. Remember that most of them lie, whether deliberately to make themselves feel better, or accidentally because the last 6 months have been a complete blur and they have forgotten half of it. Surround yourself with people who say things like, "Meh. As long as he sleeps, don't worry where" and "Ooh, he looks healthy and happy and is certainly a genius, etc".
Then things start to get a little crazy...
- Will he have friends? A partner? Kids? A job? Will he find purpose? Will he be good at sports, writing, accounting...?
- Will I be able to juggle work and mummy-stuff? Will by baked goods cut it at school fairs? OMG SCHOOL! Will I send him to the right one? Will he do well? Get into uni or a good job? Make enough money to keep me in my old age?
Take a deep breath, put your feet up and dunk some chocolate in your coffee. You have about as much control over this stuff as you did over your labour: a little bit, but mostly you have to let go and enjoy the ride, even the painful bits...